With New Chicago Park District “TrashCat™” Trash Skimmer, Garbage has No Safe Harbor

It looks like little more than a floating conveyor belt, but a new Chicago Park District trash skimmer known as the “TRASHCAT™” represents the newest hardware in the never-ending battle against the pesky litter bug.

The “TRASHCAT™” was immediately pressed into action to pick up beer cans, weeds, and other floating debris gathering slime in Burnham Park Harbor. Dubbed “Clean Water I”, the “TRASHCAT™” allows the district to clean its harbors without relying on the unreliable winds.

“When the wind blows out of the northwest, we get a lot of calls from boaters who say, ‘You’re doing a great job picking up litter,’ ” said Bob Nelson, head of the Park District’s Marine Department. “When the wind is out of the southeast, we get calls saying, “When are you going to clean up these harbors?” Nelson said the old method of cleaning its nine harbors – sending a man with a rake out in a rowboat – was inefficient.

The new “TRASHCAT™” has a series of conveyor belts that pull debris from the water, push it onto the “TRASHCAT™” and move it to the 400-cubic yard storage space. When the “TRASHCAT™” is full, the belts can empty the garbage into an on-shore container.

The “TRASHCAT™”, which can maneuver in just 18 inches of water, can scoop out tight spots that are natural gathering places for cans, dead fish and other jetsam.

The “TRASHCAT™” will clean beaches as it moves from harbor to harbor, but Nelson said it is not designed to clean the entire lakefront. Similar “TRASHCATS™” have been successful in cleaning the New York and Baltimore harbors.